Steve Bannon mulls purchasing online news site to espouse his populist views

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Steve Bannon mulls purchasing online news site to espouse his populist views

Since taking over the National Front's presidency in 2011, Marine Le Pen has worked to broaden the party's appeal by erasing the footprint of her father, who has multiple convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.

"I won't go to Lille because I don't want to become ... an accomplice to the assassination of the National Front that will be underway there", he told RTL radio.

In a surprise appearance on Saturday, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon addressed France's far-right National Front, telling a gathering of the party that they are "part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary - bigger than all of it".

This week Le Pen appeared heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy's election.

Bannon, a senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, attended the party congress of France's far-right National Front in the French city of Lille, where he also met with the political party's leader, Marine Le Pen.

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Macron won with 66% of the vote vs. 34% for Le Pen, who had threatened to curb immigration and pull France out of the European Union, among other measures.

Le Pen was hoping that the National Front congress in Lille would help her reassert her authority, after her defeat to pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron prompted criticism of her style and policies. He was ousted from the White House a year ago amid tensions and stepped down as chairman of Breitbart News Network in January after a public break with Trump.

Asked by reporters how she felt about Bannon's comments, Marine Le Pen turned to the American and said that journalists were trying to stir up competition between the two women.

But party members credit Marine Le Pen with massively expanding the party's support, doubling its score from 5.5 million votes in the 2002 presidential election to 10.6 million, or nearly 34 per cent, in 2017.

Marine Le Pen is running unopposed for a third term and her address Sunday will see her try to turn a page on the anti-Semitic, openly racist party of her former paratrooper father.

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Marechal-Le Pen, the darling of the FN old guard, withdrew from politics a year ago but made a high-profile appearance last month at a conservative jamboree in the United States, fuelling speculation about a comeback.

Jean-Marie Le Pen said that in losing heavily to Macron his daughter had "not been equal to the challenge" - a sentiment echoed by many FN members.

"She is not simply a rising star on the right in France". The National Front today has changed in nature.

However, Le Pen's credibility is among the potential obstacles to a possible far-right comeback: An annual poll published this week by the Kantar-Sofres-One Point firm showed Le Pen scoring lower on numerous questions. She bowed out of politics after her aunt's presidential defeat, but is expected to come back in a new role.

Angela Charlton contributed in Paris.

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